Fitness on the Trails of Genghis Khan

This book popped into my mind called On the Trails of Genghis Khan. It was probably one of the most epic accounts of one man’s journey through Mongol lands and reverberates much of what Chronicle of Fitness is about: Learning about history, training hard, and making your own history; using your fitness to learn about the context that you exist in.

Cope explored through the Altai Mountains in Mongolia the same path that Genghis Khan’s empire grew in. He travelled on horseback through Mongolia, Kazakhstan, through the Ukraine and into Hungary. He explored the changing environment throughout this vast medieval empire; the flora/fauna, the diversity of peoples, and the sheer variation in an empire that people have thought of as purely Asian.

Leaving your car to a World Without Boundaries

One particular example that really hit me was the author’s experiences on horseback riding. Tim talked about how travelling on horseback completely changed his perception of locomotion. In his travels, he described being on horseback as a moreleisurely affair. This was opposed to being in a car and being focused on getting from point A to B. Now there are many who enjoy a nice scenic drive but Tim’s point was that by travelling horseback, you enjoyed your environment even more. You had to.

The smallest crag, rock, or slope could topple you and your horse and so you had to be extra careful. Tim described this necessity of slowing down having forced him to appreciate the landscape around him. And what amazing beauty it was. Just looking at the pictures he took it’s breathtaking how beautiful the lands he travelled through are. Seeing the change in scenery from desert to grassy plains, to hills and valleys, was an experience made unique by horseback. This was especially so with the physical exertion of riding.

Going back to the contrast with the car, Tim pointed out that while he was in the Ukraine, he met villagers whom which he was driving with. He noticed that the road to get to their destination was a winding one that would have been much faster by horseback (allowing a straight path). However, the people of the village were so into (in Tim’s opinion) the context of the car that the idea of cutting through the forest was just unfathomable. Ironically, technology created limited thinking.

Training as a Springboard to Adventure

When first reading this, I just thought of how starting to train and exercise more, opens up your ability to what is possible. Take the sedentary ‘you’ and compare it to the active ‘you’, and you might be surprised of the opportunities that the first would turn down while the other would wholeheartedly jump towards.

History and training are emancipators. They’re not the only ones, but they are incredible tools of independence and wider thinking. Personally, I would have never thought to have been able to run more than five kilometers before last year when I ran my first 5K. Now, I’m preparing for a half marathon. My perceptions of endurance and strength are completely different from what they were before. They are different for the better as I aim to widen even more, my base of training.

Flow-walking through history Can’t do it without being fit

Flow walking was something from the expanded universe of Star Wars where Leia’s son, Jacen solo, learns to use the force to temporarily see back in time. Through learning this ability he was able to see what led to the downfall of his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker. His immense training made it possible for him to accomplish this crazy feat with the Force.

This is a lot like what Tim Cope’s experience feels like to me. He stated that before this horseback journey, he had done another huge mission of biking from Russia to Beijing across the Gobi Desert (a distance of 10, 000 km). Only after this milestone, did he attempt his three year trek on horseback. He built a base of fitness through his endeavours in hiking, bicycling, climbing, boating, and skiing. Ultimately his fitness allowed him to seek his mind’s fascination of Genghis Khan and his empire through this epic journey on horseback.

Understanding the poverty of lands, of the hurt of village peoples, of their qualms, and daily struggles and of various kinds of happiness, Tim’s fitness was a tool for expanding his worldview. Fitness enabled Tim to learn the greater context that he existed in. To me, that’s fitness.